Tuesday, 19 March 2013
NMU #16: "Away Game!"
Let's take another break from Marvel's answer to the Royal Rumble, and check in with the New Mutants, who we rather rudely left at the mercy of the White Queen at her Massachusetts Academy.
Fortunately for our heroes, Frost has never come across Amara before, and the new girl gets everyone out by cutting the power with a tactical earthquake. Emma is obviously not best pleased, but it's Kitty and Doug she's really after, and those two are still safely tucked away. Time for gloating!
Actually, it's worth deconstructing Emma's position here, because it's an advancement both for her as a character and Marvel's approach to mutants in general. Frost's argument is essentially that humanity - or at least the people in charge - has gotten past its initial surprise and terror over the existence of mutants, and moved on to coming up with ways to exploit the newest natural resource. As well as being a logical development, this ties in with what we know is being planned, of course; the government-sponsored Freedom Force will make its debut at the tail end of the following year.
It also gives us more to work with regarding Emma Frost. Within a decade, the White Queen will be co-running a new mutant school for Generation X, so it's worth keeping track of her progression from the frankly one-note villain of her first appearance to her emergence as a complicated, flawed but essentially decent woman in the mid '90s. This, I think, is the first step, in that whilst her methods remain unacceptable - kidnapping children and threatening their families until such time she's managed to brainwash them - her motivations may still be the acquisition of power, but at least there's a suggestion here of, for want of a better term, pre-emptive self-defence (sometimes shortened to "prevenge"). More importantly, it's made clear here that Emma is convinced this new idea of power plays through mutant acquisition is inevitable and inescapable, and that she's actually saving Kitty and Doug from being abducted by far worse people than she is. Indeed, it's interesting to note how similar her philosophy, under which there's no such thing as a mutant civilian, mirrors that of Scott Summers so many years later.
So Frost is now at least not entirely objectionable. The New Mutants still need to escape, however, preferably with Kitty and Doug in tow. The plan: find and take out the main generator and snatch their friends in the confusion, hoping their psi-training limits how much Emma can peek into their heads whilst they're doing it. Helpfully two guards wander past their hiding place, providing them with a handy pair of disguises. In a traditional Claremont move, the guards are female, which either means Chris wanted to make a point about there being no reason to assume guards must be male, or he wanted to get Dani to strip down to her underwear for the 37th time since her introduction (even if this time we don't actually see it). The girl has a reputation to maintain, after all.
Speaking of Dani, during this kerfuffle she's forced to use her psychic powers to terrify their captives into talking. "You're as cruel as the White Queen herself!" squeaks one of the guards in response, allowing for yet another tiresome round of "how are we better than the villains" self-indulgence. For fuck's sake, Dani. How can it possibly be difficult to see the difference between kidnapping and brainwashing children into serving you and detaining kidnappers and frightening them into helping you rescue their victims? I'm not saying scaring the crap out of people like that is necessarily a kosher interrogation method, but when you find a person's ultimate terror is the boss of the organisation they signed up for, I don't think it's hard to see daylight between them and you.
(Just as an aside, I love how our heroes take some time to dress the unconscious guardettes with Dani and Illyana's New Mutants uniforms, which is a lovely touch. Just because you can't spare a woman's face when you punch her doesn't mean you can't spare her blushes when you nick her clothes.)
With the plan settled on, Magma and Cannonball head for the generator, destroying it easily. That's about as far as their luck holds, though; the Hellions are about to make their debut!
For the uninitiated, the Hellions are Emma Frost's own band of mutant students, who are a thorn in the side of the New Mutants for several years. Interestingly, they quickly become more of a rival school than a mortal threat, which eventually seals their fate when talentless hacks like Whilce Portacio start pissing on the legacy of their betters come the early '90s. But that's another story.
For now, though, they're not much more than generic adversaries. The fun here is to match each New Mutant to their obvious Hellion duplicate (this sort of thing used to happen a lot in the '80s, plot logic often taking a back seat to either narrative symmetry or rank laziness, depending on one's interpretation). The werecat that attacks Dani and Illyana is clearly a twist on Wolfsbane. The flying mutant Jetstream (who in this issue at least seems basically to just be wearing a jetpack and sporting some kind of scanning computer using a Commodore 64 graphics system) is clearly the equivalent of Sam. You've also got Thunderbird, one of those rather dull strong-and-fast mutants that seems most similar to Sunspot only without the cool visual, and Tarot, who's ability to generate creatures from her tarot cards suggests a similarity either with Dani (because of the image generation) or Illyana (because the images can themselves cast spells). Finally there's Roulette, who's probability manipulation skills could also be sort of tied in with Illyana (especially since they take the form of discs of energy), and Empath, who can control emotions and thus is nothing like Amara at all. It's all a bit of a mess, really. Maybe Claremont and Buscema had a few good ideas for characters and filled in the rest with weirdo reflections.
Anyway, with a little help from their headmistress the newcomers rather hand the New Mutants their heads - Sam at least probably viewed this with relief having spent the issue upsetting Amara by accidentally breaking the social conventions of Nova Roma and, y'know, America. Only Illyana and Dani escape by diving into one of the former's teleport discs... but will they ever return from Limbo?
This issue picks up immediately from NMU #16, and takes place over the course of about an hour.
Dani mentions that it's been months since she helped Peter Bristow in NMU #4. By our timeline, it's been about six months, so that works out fine.
Wednesday 11th January, 1984.
TheUS Supreme Court reinstates the full amount of damages awarded to the family of Karen Silkwood, who was poisoned with plutonium due to lax safety regulations. The original case formed the basis of the Academy Award-nominated film Silkwood.
"The grave is a mutant's only lasting sanctuary." - The White Queen